By: Larry Carpenter, Vice President & Project Executive at Timberline Construction

Safety while working in various occupied environments can oftentimes present challenges. Each project type, as well as individual client needs and protocols, requires a unique approach. For some project types, such as healthcare, there are already comprehensive industry-specific best practices in place to follow; however, even in cases like these, a thorough understanding of the project’s particulars and client needs must be in hand prior to finalizing a safety plan for each site and project.

OSHA standards are well known and maintained. Our industry’s tradespeople and management are trained and experienced to have tools & proven methods at their disposal to monitor and maintain a safe workplace. It is the surrounding environment, client employees, visitors, and the general public that need to be fully considered in occupied facilities. Protecting those individuals and the property itself is key and can present unique opportunities on many projects.

The best approach to meet these challenges is to consider safety early on. The involvement of a construction manager early in preconstruction can reap benefits by bringing means and methods to the table right from the start of the process that can enhance the overall safety of the project. Project phasing, if necessary, can be developed with a focus on site logistics and minimizing disruptions as well as any risk to the building occupants and controls that may be required. In some projects, the owner’s preferred phasing may not be practical when the sequence and requirements of the building systems work is considered. In the best case, the phasing, schedule, and site logistics as well as project-specific safety needs are developed in advance and incorporated into the documents that are provided for subcontractor pricing so that the expectations and approach to the work is fully integrated with the project’s safety goals and needs.

As our industry was on the front lines partnering with local and state authorities developing new protocols and procedures to deal with the COVID-19 crisis in the workplace, it evidenced how, when given the challenge, the construction industry can and will adapt to whatever is necessary to deliver projects safely under new and sometimes difficult circumstances. While project safety may fall under the responsibilities of the contractor, an early and collaborative approach involving all project participants will produce safer more predictable results.